Although the DHT-1312XP lacks the finesse and smoothness normally associated with Denon products, newcomers to home cinema are likely to be pleased with its lively, room-filling sound. The chaotic climax of Transformers: Dark of the Moon is reproduced with relentless energy and fierce dynamics, particularly when Optimus and Sentinel Prime start bashing the nuts and bolts out of each other.
Optimus’ final, lethal blow to Sentinel packs a huge, powerful punch, while the clanging, crashing sound of metal on metal throughout the scene just stays the right side of abrasive. The system’s muscle and expansiveness create an impressive sense of scale, but with effects accurately placed within the soundstage. There’s an urgency and immediacy behind its presentation that demands your attention.
It’s a world away from the smoother, more restrained sound of the AVR-1912 – this system is a crowd-pleaser, designed to deliver a more instant visceral hit, and there’s no shame in that.
But as a result the sound is a little too brash, particularly at louder volumes when the relentless brutality can be too much to digest for long periods. It also lacks a touch of composure and openness in scenes that need it, not really giving individual sounds enough room to breathe.
It also means that much of the robots’ dialogue is spat out rather than spoken, although intelligibility isn’t greatly affected and there’s wonderful depth behind the voices.
The subwoofer is potent and reasonably agile, lending considerable bass weight to the soundtrack, but the volume level and crossover point need careful tweaking as it’s very easy for the sub to overpower the satellites and draw undue attention to itself. A ‘less is more’ approach works best.
During quiet scenes the speakers miss out some of the finer high-frequency detail that may have been resolved with separate tweeters and midrange drivers, but shots of Megatron exiled on the African plains are enveloping and atmospheric, with crickets chirping clearly from the surround speakers.
So what have we learned from the DHT-1312XP? Well, if you’re looking for movie playback with subtlety, refinement and intricate detail insight, you’d better save your pennies for one of Denon’s midrange amps and a better speaker system.
But if you want a home cinema system that smacks you round the face from the word go with its power and energy, then it might be right up your street. The AVR-1312 and SYS-1312 fill the room with a dynamic, if brash sound, with decent bass depth (after careful tweaking) and an immersive soundstage.
The AVR-1312’s spec sheet is sparse, but four HDMIs with full 3D support are welcome and the onscreen menus make it easy to operate, although be prepared for a fiddly setup procedure if using the supplied cables.
The DHT-1312XP’s greatest virtues are its price and convenience, bringing you a complete surround sound system in one hit, something that’s bound to win it plenty of fans regardless of how it performs.